Join me for today’s Real Careers interview with Stefania Andriolo of Milan, Italy.
Stefania Andriolo is Executive Assistant to ABB’s CHO (Country Holding Officer) and Chairman of the Board. Here’s a look at her world. She joined ABB early this year.
Cappuccino and croissant
Before the pandemic, I worked in a different role with another company. There were two options. On a typical working day, when I wasn’t travelling, my day began very early. I would wake at 6:30 and travel by bicycle or, in winter, by subway. I had a cappuccino and croissant for breakfast in our office building, and would then make my way to the office. I was the first to arrive on the floor.
When away on a business trip, I’d always wake up early and typically work on site. I always cut out an hour or so before evening, wherever I was, for a walk. This helped me detach and unwind.
With my new job, my commute takes 10 minutes by car or 20 minutes by bicycle. Who or what is on your commuting playlist/podcast? Adele and Maroon 5
At the Office
Primary responsibilities – a note from Shelagh: Stefania’s primary responsibilities have changed since we conducted our interview. Now EA to the CHO and Chairman of the Board, she joined the organisation as EA to the EVP Marketing & Sales for the Americas, Middle East, Africa and Asia (AMEAA), Smart Buildings and Smart Power Divisions. In that role, Stefania’s primary responsibilities included diary and meeting management, prioritising workload, and facilitating communications between the line manager and internal and external stakeholders.
Morning routines: Every single day is different. I begin with a cup of green tea that I can’t do without. The first thing I do is check the appointments of the day and the last thing I do each day is check the appointments for the next day. Another fixed point is one hour of training/updating that I try to dedicate to myself every day. I am currently completing a daily sustainability challenge. The middle of the day is crazy and variable.
How long is your work day? Nine hours. Do you sometimes/often work past a traditional close of business, during your commute, or from home during your “off” hours? It happens. Working in a global and flexible environment, when I was with an international team in at least 20 different time zones, I worked outside the usual hours.
A fixed point:
one hour of training/updating that I try to dedicate to myself every day
Given health risks associated with views that sitting is the new smoking, have you or your employer adopted any steps to support good health? In 2017, ABB Italy began a workplace health program (WHP ) to support employees with good health practices. This was done in collaboration with local health authorities. It involves healthy eating, a no smoking policy and training opportunities. Moreover, all employees and families are offered access to free psychological support.
What might be a typical lunch? I am lucky enough to go home for lunch, and this allows me to disconnect and return rejuvenated. I always try to get away from my office and have a break. If I don’t have time to go home, I at least leave the office for a cappuccino.
Are you involved in any employee groups/teams independent of your role? I am a member of various assistant associations and business communities, where we network and build relationships with colleagues from other companies in varied industries.
Inside the career
What is the most challenging aspect of your day or career? One of my big challenges will be adjusting to the new workflow and creating a new type of fiduciary support. My plan is to ask a lot of questions, working alongside my colleagues to focus on the responsibilities and learn as much as possible.
What do you most enjoy about your career? I am in contact with people.
Set your own goals and give 100% to achieve them!
On Saying “No”
I say it every day. Saying “no” is synonymous with being efficient.
Working during a pandemic
Tell us about your experience with remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though I don’t like working remotely, I still find the advantages in having more time for my family, optimizing travel times.
How would you rate your productivity when working remotely? Productivity depends on the day.
What helps you to be resilient during challenging times, whether it’s a pandemic or other factors that create challenges? Set your own goals and give 100% to achieve them!
What would be your ideal work scenario once we settle in to new norms? Three days in the office and two at home Would you prefer to be back in the office, at home, or proceed with a hybrid approach? For now, I am in hybrid mode; I work partly in the office and partly at home. I think this will be the way of the future. The “workation” will continue, as the trend developed during the pandemic sees professionals carrying out their duties in exotic places where it is easier to combine commitments and relaxation.
I work partly in the office and partly at home. I think this will be the way of the future.
What’s been your biggest career lesson/takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic? Do not neglect your private life! What’s been your biggest life lesson/takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic? The work-life balance is essential.
How has the pandemic impacted your approach to professional development? I have attended many training webinars. I changed companies during the pandemic.
Individuals and employers are increasingly aware of the importance of taking steps to reduce our carbon footprints. What steps are underway within your workplace to reduce carbon footprints? ABB’s Sustainability Strategy has a clear focus on areas with the biggest impact – enabling a low-carbon society by reducing emissions, preserving resources, and promoting social progress underpinned by a strong commitment to integrity and transparency.
Please highlight some steps you take to reduce your carbon footprint in your personal life. I buy plants for the house, hang out the laundry, turn off the tap while I brush my teeth, use refillable bottles and recyclable bags, and turn off lights. I drive an electric car, and walk in nature.
How long have you been in this career? Eight years What was your first such role? I was PA to the Vice President Operations, Luxury Brands and Quality Relay, Southern Europe.
How did you learn about the opportunity that led to your current role? I learned about it through a corporate recruitment website.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office? I like to go to the mountains.
How do you decompress or reward yourself after a tough day or week? I like to walk or swim. Every Friday evening, I have a fixed appointment at the pool to swim, my favourite anti-stress activity, in the company of my husband.
Your ideal holiday or travel adventure? travel between new cities, and excursions
Do not neglect your private life
Education and professional development
I attended private courses in foreign languages English and French.
I have attended many training webinars
Describe any positive benefits your networking has had on your career, and/or for your employer. I’ve developed contacts with various companies, and increased the visibility of the role.
Networking, inspiration and achievements
Have you received or been nominated for any performance awards, through either your employer or a professional association? I put myself forward for the Secretary.it Best Assistant of the Year award. Voting was conducted by a jury of the business community and by an external vote open to all. I put myself totally on the line and was recognised by Secretary.it with the 2019-2020 Best Assistant of the Year award.
Inspirational reads? Open, by Andre Agassi
Recruitment is often competency-based, with competencies reflecting both behavioural (“soft” skills) and technical (“hard” skills) competencies. Tell us about your behavioural and technical competencies that are relevant to success in your current position. I have empathy and I’m a team player.
Role models or mentors? My first boss was my mentor. I have no specific role models; I aim to be the best version of myself.
I am lucky enough to go home for lunch, and this allows me to disconnect and return rejuvenated.
What steps do you take when you recognise that you need to move beyond your comfort zone? I begin studying.
What skill(s) development or enhancement have you targeted for the next year? support in Fiduciary Process Management – to the extent available, supporting the design and performance management of fiduciary processes (presentations, milestone checking, process quality checking)
Do you have any career goals or accomplishments on your radar for the next five years? I want to become a manager.
Travel or travel planning recommendations? Always read the reviews, and rely on search engines for cost comparisons.
Bring solutions, not problems
The Digital Age
What are your preferred forms of social media? LinkedIn and Instagram What apps do you make use of in your professional life? Google Maps and Meteo
How have digital assistants and artificial intelligence (AI) impacted your role? Sometimes, chatbots are so accurate that it seems as if you’re talking to a real person.
What positive impact(s) do you think AI (artificial intelligence), digital assistants and IOT (the Internet of Things) will have on the assistant of 2025? They enable you to create quality work, omitting activities that do not bring added value.
What forms of professional development would you recommend to assistants who want to ensure their roles remain relevant and rewarding in this digital age? computer and programming courses
You’re talking to a counterpart embarking on a job search. Briefly outline the approach you’d recommend. Update your LinkedIn profile, and identify sectors and employers of interest.
Give us one or two of your best strategies for job interviews. Prepare by studying the company.
What bit of insight would have been most helpful to you in the early stages of your career? Always be confident.
Be collaborative with colleagues
What advice might you offer a new parent returning to the workplace? It’s all a matter of organization.
What are a couple of suggestions you’d offer that new assistant on the block, in terms of how to build effective business relationships within the office? Be collaborative with colleagues.
Your most effective time management strategy? Ask yourself the question: does this bring value?
What are a couple of valuable early conversation topics you recommend an assistant initiate when beginning work with a new executive/principal? Ask about the executive’s preferences and modus operandi.
Ask yourself the question: does this bring value?
Your thoughts on goal setting? Taking risks and getting out of my comfort zone made me grow.
For those interested in promotion: Bring solutions, not problems
About Shelagh and her Real Careers interviews
About Shelagh: At the age of 21, Shelagh was a direct report to a COO. Within the same corporation, she became an editor and then a corporate trainer before a relocation and a return to what became an almost 30-year assistant career. Wrapping up that career in 2018 after a decade in governance, Shelagh’s been a direct report to four CEOs and accountable to four board chairs. Now, she delivers quality training internationally. She speaks at conferences, works with corporate clients, facilitates retreats, and delivers webinars to assistants in a number of countries.
About Shelagh’s Real Career interviews: Shelagh launched her Real Careers series in 2015. She interviews assistants around the globe in order to showcase individuals and the career itself. This series and the questions Shelagh poses continue to evolve. In addition to providing interesting reads and diverse perspectives, these interviews can constitute a form of professional development, as readers can explore different approaches assistants take to building and maintaining successful careers. To explore any of Shelagh’s interviews with assistants in 28 countries to date, follow the Interviews/Real Careers drop-down menus on this page – and enjoy!